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As early voting ends, Tarrant County officials scramble to correct error on some early ballots

🕐 3 min read

Tarrant County election officials are scrambling to correct an error that occurred in nearly 2,000 mail-in and more than 800 in-person early voting ballots.

The mistake affects the race for Constable Precinct 6 on the Democratic ballot.

“The race of Constable Precinct 6 for the Democratic Party was erroneously placed in the ballots of Constable Precinct 4,” Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia said in a statement to the Fort Worth Business Press.

The elections office also informed voters whose ballots were affected by the error of the mistake and steps that have been taken to correct it.

“These include automatically mailing out a corrected ballot to all 1,906 affected voters who had requested one and ensuring that the ballots that were already returned to us were preserved,” Garcia stated.

A “programming” mistake in Tarrant County’s new voting machines also impacted the Constable Precinct 6 race during the first two days of early voting in the March 3 Democratic primary. By the time the error was detected, 825 voters had cast ballots in that race at countywide voting centers.

It is unclear how in-person voters will be notified.

“The race of Constable Precinct 6 – Democratic is an uncontested race, hence the error will not affect the outcome of the election,” Garcia said.

Mail-in ballot voters were provided new ballots that must be returned by 5 p.m. on March 4.

The original ballots containing the error are being safeguarded as backup if affected voters don’t recast ballots. That will prevent “any voter from being disenfranchised in the rest of the races, Garcia said.

“The chairs of both parties were promptly notified to ensure absolute transparency in the process, and a notice of ballot correction was filed with the Secretary of State as required by state law,” Garcia stated.

“New quality control procedures have been defined to prevent this specific error from happening in future elections, they will be implemented already for the local elections (in) May,” Garcia stated.

Tarrant County inaugurated its new Hart InterCivic Verity voting machines in the Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election last November.

County Commissioners approved spending $11 million on the new touch-screen voting equipment, which provides a paper printout for voters to double-check their choices before their ballots are scanned. The new machines were touted for improved security and providing a paper trail in the event of a recount.

In November, some mishaps such as paper jams were reported but elections officials attributed those problems to human error rather the equipment failures.

Other Texas counties also rolled out the same new Hart InterCivic voting equipment in November with some encountering difficulties and others not reporting any issues. This equipment was approved for use in Texas by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. For the first time, Tarrant County voters can cast ballots at any vote centers throughout the county rather than at a single precinct.

At the end of early voting on Feb. 28, 124,583 in-person early votes were cast in Tarrant County, with Democrats recording 62,418 early in-person votes and Republicans recording 62,165.

A total of 24,212 mail-in ballots were sent out by Feb. 28 and 13,448 mail-in ballots were returned as of Feb. 27, the elections office reported. Democrats were outpacing Republicans in mail-in ballots as well as in-person voting.

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